Thanksgiving Day football is special. Toss in the gluttonous gorging with the profanity directed at a glowing box and uncle Jimmy’s tales of his illegal Cuban cigar operation, and nothing says togetherness like nine hours of football. If you can think of anything more American than eating animals and watching football, dammit, you ain’t no ‘Merican (note: I too am not an American, but I know some and they’re nice people).
Even if the results are sometimes less than entertaining (see: last year’s Patriots-Jets game), the pageantry and the spotlight on these three games on this one day makes the memories vivid. They really do glow in my memory, as football and turkey are mashed together each year in an iconic slice of Americana.
Why, let’s just look back over the past few years, and I’ll show you what I mean. Here’s exactly how I remember recent Thanksgiving Day football.
Last year the Texans’ win over Detroit was low-lighted by a controversial Justin Forsett touchdown that shouldn’t have been a touchdown, because requesting to review a play that’s already automatically reviewed means no review happens. Or something.
But despite their loss partly because of that flawed official housekeeping, I’m still a sucker for the little guy. Specially, this little guy: journeyman Lions receiver Mike Thomas. He was needed for only a brief time while filling in for an injured Nate Burleson, and although he only had five receptions last year, one of them was good for a touchdown under the Thanksgiving lights.
Just look at the glee and jubilance. God bless you, Mike Thomas.
A year earlier, the 2011 game between the Packers and Lions was highlighted by Ndamukong Suh’s stomp which led to a suspension. But it’s this image that stands out, as it captures the grittiness and determination of veteran Charles Woodson coming from the defensive backfield in pursuit.
Coaches find this sort of leadership delicious, as though it could almost coat their mouth. In his younger day it was often said that Woodson hounded potential targets in coverage as though he was tailing a turkey, lurking and preparing for them to dart sideways at any moment.
Indeed, sometimes it’s the simple images that we remember, like this handoff to Kevin Smith from the same game. Note the deep concentration in Matthew Stafford’s eyes, as Smith looks downfield.
Later that evening in 2011 we had the first version of the HarBowl, or whatever we’re calling it now. Emotions ran high.
Unfortunately, in said game high on emotion the Ravens were missing their leader Ray Lewis (foot injury), who treats emotion like oxygen. Alas, like the warrior he is, he remained on the sideline to provide support, while surely saying some things that were incoherent.
Of course, Thanksgiving Day football is known for much more than just its on-field bird-dogging. Halftime performances are a staple of the experience, with the NFL attempting to remain cool and hip. Back in 2005 Mariah Carey killed innocent ears, among other things.
Then there’s Bill Belichick, whose Patriots have been featured in two of the last four Thanksgivings. With his often imitated but never duplicated scowl, on the sidelines there isn’t much about Belichick that says grace and good tidings. In fact, his default look is usually better suited to a different occasion a month earlier.
So get ready for a day with more memorable moments and personalities, guys. Some of what you see today will be unmistakably real and remarkable, and it will stay with you forever.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: None of this is real. I decided it would be fun to see what it would look like if we quite literally put football and Thanksgiving together. However, I lacked both the Photoshop skills and the sufficiently warped mind. Thankfully, Scott Lewis has both of those things in abundance.